THINGS CHANGE

A faint reddish pink glow emanates from the faded neon OPEN sign onto the dark and deserted street, next to where it is attached to a large wooden sign that is hanging on the front of a building sporting a log cabin façade.  The neon sign alternatingly flickers bright and dim atop its perch upon the wood sign, which is covered with layers of flaking gold and green metallic paint, paint that is barely clinging on to it, the wood itself looks like it has endured much wear and tear.  MURPHY’S TAVERN is barely legible beneath the paint in its current condition and if there had ever attractive that time was long gone.  The front door is slightly ajar and a colorful group of men and women are revealed through the crack.  The men are wearing combinations of cowboy shirts and loggers’ work clothes and are in sharp contrast to the women dressed in sparkling sequined blouses and brightly colored skirts and dresses.  The group loosely huddles around an antique appearing jukebox and they attempt to sing along to the song that is playing on it.  The men are pounding their feet on the floor while the women clap along to a different beat which doesn’t matter as probably none of them can hear the sound of their own voices over the top of all the noise they are making.  The clock is starting to chime the twelve chords leading up to the old year being replaced by a new oneWhen the twelfth chime proclaims the hour of midnight it triggers kissing and hugging among these town folk who know each other all too well.  In the midst of all the reveling an old man stumbles into the bar and from the exasperated look on the faces of the partiers he is obviously familiar.

“Old man Anthony is dead!  I just heard that old man Anthony has died!”

The group immediately halts their celebration and they turn and stare at the old man.  They are silent for a moment and then turn and blankly look at each other.  An apparent unspoken agreement must have been reached as to what to do next because they all start singing again, this time it is along to Auld Lang Sine which had begun playing on the jukebox while the old man was making his announcement.

 Meanwhile in a different town another New Year’s Eve celebration is also in progress.  This one is being played out in a small apartment room occupied by a disheveled looking handsome young man and two attractive young women who appear to be a few years younger than the man.  One woman is wearing a sequined dress and the other is wearing jeans and a tee shirt and jeans.  They are holding glasses of champagne and making cheery gestures towards each other as the program in progress announces it is midnight.  After they finish making toasts the sequined woman gives the man a sly look and the two of them begin singing Happy Birthday while looking at the other woman and she gives them a look that reveals little enthusiasm for the birthday serenade.

“Isn’t it exciting to turn thirty on New Year’s Eve Karen?”

“Not particularly since my birthday has occurred on the same day for twenty nine years before this, I feel like you two are making ‘much ado about nothing’ and thirty feels the same as it did when I was only twenty nine.  Don’t you wish you were still thirty Tom?”

“Not really, life still sucks the same now as it has all the years before this, so why would I wish to be younger?”

“My, don’t you have a lovely attitude.”  Karen replied to Tom’s rant.

“Can’t you two be nice to each other for one evening?  All you two ever do is argue and it is getting old to listen to it.”

“You mean it is getting old just like me don’t you Tina?  Besides if I wanted your opinion I would give it to you!”  Tom angrily replied.

The three of them are gathered alone for this seemingly somewhat special occasion that seems to show signs that they are experiencing hard times from the appearance of empty bottles of cheap beer littering the kitchen floor.  There are many more empty bottles sitting on the kitchen counter next to a cheaply decorated cake that is adorned with children’s toys sitting unceremoniously on top of it, possibly it was unclaimed cake for a child and sold at a discount.  They must have drank enough alcohol because they start to appear to be having a good time and they begin dancing.

“Hey girls want to hear a good joke, why did the chicken cross the road?”

The women quickly gave him a disapproving look.

“Aren’t chicken crossing the road jokes antiques?”  Tina flipped at him.

Karen glared at Tom with a not now look in her eyes. “Can’t we skip the lame jokes?”

“Lame you say?  Surely you can come up with something more insulting than that.  I wasn’t trying out for a talk show.  I mistakenly thought a little bit humor might be kind of nice for a change but I wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt by laughter!”

“Why start thinking now?” Karen challengingly throws out.

“Well alright then I guess it has officially been established you girls have no sense of humor.  I like the joke but since you don’t want to hear it you’ll never know, it is your loss.”

Tina gave him a disapproving look and got up and went to the bathroom.  As soon as she was out of the room Tom reached over and lovingly grabbed Karen’s hand.

“Hey, this hasn’t been that bad a way to spend your birthday has it?”

“No, I guess not.”

“I only wish that I could afford to give you a decent gift for your birthday.”

“That’s alright it really doesn’t matter.  You haven’t worked in such long time you don’t have any money to buy me a present and even when you had money you really weren’t ever that big on giving presents.”

“You’re right about my being broke but it is especially nice of you to throw in that even when I wasn’t broke I wasn’t any good at buying presents.  It seems like I am a pretty poor boyfriend so why are you even still with me?

“Sometimes the best gifts aren’t material things.  There is something I have wanted and have been waiting until we are in better monetary condition to tell you about but it is beginning to look like I may be waiting forever if I keep waiting for that to happen.”  Karen tentatively says.

“Please tell me what that immaterial gift it is that you want and I’d be happy to oblige.”

“I would love for us to have a child together Tom.”

Tom let go of her hand and moved away quickly as if she had just caught on fire.

“For heaven’s sake Karen what are you saying?  Didn’t you just say how lousy I am at doing something small like buying you a birthday present and then you jump light years forward to wanting me to father a child?”

“I am thirty years old and obviously not getting any younger while waiting for our situation to improve.”

“I don’t recall any conversations we’ve ever had about having a family.  We can barely afford to buy champagne for your birthday, how are we supposed to support a ‘family’ no matter how old you are getting?” Tom is obviously more than a little stunned by the direction the conversation has headed.

“You’re right that it was stupid of me to think that you could get a job like the grown up person you should be by the age you now are. If we wait too long we’ll be old enough to be grandparents before we are even parents.”

“You have got to be kidding about wanting to bring a kid into this kind of living situation, don’t mess with my head like that Karen.”

Karen appears to be very hurt.  She gets up from the couch next and goes into the bedroom and shuts the door behind her firmly making the statement that the party is over for her.

Tom is trying to figure out when the birthday party turned from being a celebration and became a family planning session.  He can’t believe Karen would suggest such a stupid thing as having a child given they can’t sustain even half an hour of civility besides barely being able to support themselves.  The sound of the toilet flushing brought Tom back to reality and he remembers that Karen’s sister is still there and has missed the baby conversation.  Tina returns to the living room and when she looks around sees only Tom she gets a puzzled look on her face.

“What happened to Karen?”

“She’s in the bedroom, the party ended while you were out of the room.”

“Very funny, do I really want to know what happened? Probably not.  Tell Karen I will call her in the morning.  I hope things will be better than they seem to be right now.”  She grabbed her coat and left the apartment.

Tom goes to the refrigerator and grabs another beer.  He goes back to the couch and soon passes out where sat down before he even drinks half of the bottle.

The next morning the light streams through the apartment and highlights the mess from the previous evening and somehow it manages to make the room look even worse than it did before.  Tom is still on the couch in the semi upright and sideways position in which he had been seated in with his beer when he passed out.  When he moves to get up he feels a sharp stabbing pain in his neck from the unnatural position he had spent the night in.  It was not an entirely new sensation as he has passed out on the couch in the same manner several times before.  He stands up, stretches and then goes into the bedroom where Karen had retreated to the night before but the room is empty.  The apartment isn’t very big but he checks the bathroom to see if Karen might be in there and when she isn’t he goes in to see if he looks as bad as he feels but he doesn’t, he looks worse. The tattered pair of jeans and worn out sweatshirt do nothing to improve his appearance but he runs a comb through his hair, puts on a coat, he slips on tennis shoes without socks and heads out the door.  He did a combination of stumbling and walking down the flight of stairs which lead from the front door to the sidewalk and he slowly joins the crowd of people walking by the building.  He weaves his way through the crowd in no apparent hurry to get anywhere.   He gets to the first crosswalk and starts across it even though Do Not Cross was flashing.   A taxi came around the corner and barely missed hitting Tom.  The driver slams on the brakes and honks the horn at him.  He rolled down the window and yells at Tom for crossing the road right in front of him.

“Hey asshole, get some glasses!”

Tom responded by flipping him off and continued walking across the street.  He turned around the next corner as it came up and then turned again at the next corner.  He went down a narrow walkway which ended at a door with a small OPEN sign hanging over it and the word BAR was painted on the door, down and around a slight corner brought Tom to another door marked ENTRANCE/EXIT and it led into a one room bar with six tables and a counter which extends for the whole length of the small room.  There is a small but inclusive selection of bottles of liquor stacked behind the long counter along with a small grill.  Tom grabbed a newspaper from the middle of the counter and sat on a stool at the end. The bartender came out from the back room and looks at Tom and goes behind the bar and pours a glass of beer. Tom appears to be looking at the newspaper while holding a pen in his hand, job searching perhaps?

“When did you learn how to read?”  The bartender says with a wry smile.

“Very funny, I can get attitude at home and it’s free!”

“Well, considering how big your tab is, what’s different with you getting it here?”

“In that case can I get a shot of Tequila to go with my beer and attitude, please?”

“It’s been over two months since you’ve paid me anything on your tab.  It seems to me that it would be cheaper just to give you the beer and keep the tequila.”

Tom looks at the bartender and his face clearly shows the despair he is feeling.

“Yeah I know, it seems like my luck has got to change one of these days…wouldn’t you think?”

The bartender doesn’t answer. He grabs a bottle of Tequila and pours a shot into a glass and sets it next to the beer.

“I try not to think too much, it’s too much effort and doesn’t do any good.”  The bartender turned and walked away.

Tom downs the shot of Tequila and as the warm glow of the booze makes its way through his body he smiles towards the disappearing bartender.

“Thanks man, anymore the only good things I still have to look forward to are straight shots with a beer chaser.  Don’t worry, I don’t feel sorry for myself because I know my situation is my own fault and I have no one to blame but myself.”

Tom takes the package of tobacco out of his pocket and rolls a sloppy cigarette, he then looks around to see if anyone is sitting close enough to bum a light off, but there isn’t so he grabs a book of matches off the counter instead.  He knows that the whole town has banned smoking in bars but with the serious lack of customers he isn’t too worried about his smoking bothering any one.  He knows the bartender also smokes there when there aren’t any customers around.

With the bartender in the back room Tom is left sitting alone in the bar.  He starts looking at the newspaper again, he had left it lying on the counter when he was served the beer and tequila.  Tom doesn’t spend a lot of time looking through the paper this time and sets it down on the bar, picks up the beer and downs it quickly.  He put out his cigarette on the bar top and throws the butt towards the sink.  He looks around for the bartender but he is still in the back room so he gets up and walks out of the dark bar and in to the brightness of the day.

Tom walks down the path that leads from the back exit he had entered through.  When he gets to the sidewalk he turns left and slowly walks along with the rest of the pedestrians and now appears to be walking aimlessly.  After a few blocks he stops in front of a small gate that leads into some kind of playground, it has a well-manicured lawn with a few tables and benches and a sandy area with a swing set.  Farther on there is another area with a small slide and a jungle gym type of climbing structure. The day is very cold and there are only a couple of people sitting on one of the benches and there are no kids playing anywhere.  Tom walks down the small path that winds its way through the play areas and eventually ends at a small wading pool surrounding a fountain.  He picks up some loose pebbles off of the ground and starts trying to skip them across the small surface.  Tom appears to be ready to walk away but then he reaches down and picks up a few more small rocks.  Karen appears on the path walking towards where Tom is skipping rocks.

“Sorry I am late but we actually had enough customers for me to get an extra hour of work this morning.  After our party went so well last night I wasn’t really sure you would even remember our plan to meet during my break anyway, or that you would even want to after our fight.”

“Your being late is not a problem, I didn’t have anything else to do, unfortunately.  Not that seeing you is in any way unfortunate, but, if I was unable to meet you because of my having something else to do, like a job, it would be much better for both of us which I am sure you will agree.”

Karen sits down on one of the nearby benches as Tom picks up one more rock and tries to skip it across the pool before he approaches her.  They resume the previous night’s conversation but at least this time they are sober.

“I’ve been thinking about what you said last night.”

“And what were you thinking, exactly?”  Karen implores hopefully, her dark blue eyes were glistening with a hint of tears in them.

“I am thinking that this is not a good time to have a baby on any level for any reason. I don’t believe that you don’t already know that!”

Tom starts walking a tight circle around Karen while keeping his eyes fixed on hers.

“That’s what I figured you would say.”  Disappointment is written all over her face.

“Why are you taking this so hard?  You know we aren’t in any kind of financial position to raise a child and our personal relationship isn’t in any better shape than our obvious lack of one with money.  If we can’t make it without a child what could possibly make you think we would be better with one?”

“I am getting older and our relationship, along with our lack of money, has stayed the same.  Having a child has been a dream of mine for a long time and I think being a father could be the best thing to happen to you.  I think you would step up to the plate and be a better person for your child, clearly being a better person for me isn’t any kind of goal you are striving for!”  Karen is talking in a quiet tone but there is a lot of anger seething through in her remarks, to the point that the words she isn’t saying are louder than all of the spoken ones.

“That’s ridiculous Karen, if I can’t take care of myself how can I take care of you and a child?  I just don’t buy that you don’t know that deep down inside somewhere!”

“You don’t need to be so negative about my feelings even if you don’t share them.”

“Okay, let’s say for a moment that I share your dream for a child, and I pretend that this is a rational conversation.  How do you propose we feed the kid?”

“Our child would have loving parents which is more that most children have these days.”

“Last time I tried to live on love the power was turned off and I got very hungry.  The message I got was love can’t buy you money or happiness. I think that being a loving parent might be a little over rated.  I don’t think you are even in the real world right now, but since you made it clear that you think I am a loser, why would you want to have a child with me anyway?”

“I had been waiting to say that to you for a couple of years but it was beginning to appear that wasn’t going to be a better time to tell you that so I did it.  I have a decent job and if you tried you could get one as well, of course that would only be if you really wanted one, which it seems that you don’t.  I guess why should you as long as I keep on working and making enough money for us to squeeze by on. Enough so you can buy some beer to kill the pain of having to watch me make a living for both of us.”

“I am obviously a loser so why would you even bring up having a child with me?”

Karen pauses a moment, “I know want is the key word here and if you really wanted you would have already done it.  You are correct that I am delusional and have been lying to myself. This is something you are definitely not trying to do and the truth is easily your best argument.  I guess I need to use my ‘get out of jail free’ card and leave you to your self-imposed jail.  I really thought I loved you and that you loved me but maybe I don’t really know what love is.  I think that you will miss me someday but you are right in that I need to get out of here!”  Karen leans over and kisses Tom lightly on the cheek and walks away.

Tom watches her walk off, feeling sad and relieved.  He wants to be mad or hurt but he knows he has no right to those feelings.  Karen disappears and he walks back to the apartment.

Darkness came early and the apartment is beginning to look much better now that day light is disappearing.  Tom is lying on the couch drinking a beer and surfing through the television channels with the remote control.  He belches loudly and for a moment he expects to hear a reprimand from Karen for such rude manners but then he remembers that if she is true to her word that won’t be happening again.  He felt a little pang of sadness so he turns up the volume on the television and goes to the refrigerator and returns to his position on the couch with a fresh beer in his hand.

There is a light knock on the door and before Tom can even sit up the door opens and Karen enters the apartment.  She is obviously in a bad mood and immediately begins yelling at Tom.

“What a mess!  It looks like a pig sty in here!”

“What do you expect?  I let the maid take the day off since I was supposed to be home alone tonight!”

“I find it really amazing how lazy you are, you do nothing all day long!  You’ve been this way for months and that’s probably a conservative estimate, you could at least clean up the place a little since I’m paying the bills.”

“I was going to clean it up after I met you in the park but then when you said you weren’t coming back I lost my motivation.”

“It’s always later, like so much later that you never do anything!  You always have the same old excuses every time I expect you to change and do something different or helpful.”

“So what’s your point?  You already said goodbye at the park so what are you doing here giving me crap about the dirty apartment?”

“Since I have all my stuff here I came to tell you that maybe I was a little harsh earlier today.  After seeing the same old scene happening here again I guess I wasn’t harsh at all.  I really am tired of this, you never used to be this lazy, why are you such a loser?”

“Why don’t you just leave like you told me you were going to do?”

“Maybe I really should.  I don’t know what I was expecting when I came here this evening.”

“Don’t put things off until later that you can do today, isn’t that what you always tell me?”

She glares at him with hatred in her eyes and leaves the apartment slamming the door on her way out.

Tom sits up on the couch and feeling helpless he angrily kicks the coffee table which knocks his beer and an ashtray onto the floor.  He kicks the table again because he is mad at his stupidity in kicking the table which made even more of a mess in the apartment.  Instead of cleaning up he takes a shower instead.

Tom walks out of the bedroom wearing clean clothes but his new clothes don’t look much different than what he already had on other than being a little less wrinkled.  He grabs his leather jacket off the back of a chair and leaves the apartment.  He walks down the sidewalk that runs in front of the apartment building and he appears to be aimlessly wandering.  The noise is tremendous from the rush hour traffic along with the sounds of horns being used by frustrated drivers.  Tom is standing at a corner when he is approached by a man who appears to be homeless.

“Hey buddy, can you spare some change?  I haven’t had anything to eat for two days.”

Tom doubts the man hasn’t eaten for two days but he reaches in his pocket for his pack of cigarettes and holds one out to the man. “You’ve caught me at a bad time and this is all I have to offer.”

The man grabs the cigarette and gestures for a light.  Tom lights the cigarette and the man nods his head in a gesture of gratitude.  Tom notices that the man immediately hits up another pedestrian with what Tom presumes is the same story.  Tom is disgusted when he sees this and mutters under his breath.  “Who knows?  Maybe someday I will end up like him.”  Tom has a feeling that day might not be too far away considering he is living in an apartment that his girlfriend  pays the rent on and he has just run her off.  Tom only left the apartment because of the fight he had with Karen and doesn’t have anywhere in mind to go so takes a turn on the sidewalk that leads him back to where he started and he goes back into the apartment and cleans up the beer and ashtray mess he made before he left.  He picks up a little more of the mess until his hangover resurfaces so he then turns on the television and lays on the couch to watch it and catch up on his sleep.

Tom woke up early the next morning with the television still on and the station off the air.  He slept on the couch right where he had been sitting once again, the second night in a row though last night had been a choice, unlike the night before when Karen had gone to bed mad at him.  He got up and made a cup of instant coffee and he took his coffee and into the living room near the only window so he could enjoy the morning sun.

There is a light knock on the door and Tina walks in before Tom can get up to open the door.  She walks over and sits on the sofa with her back turned to the window.  She has a serious expression on her face and gives Tom what he perceives to be a disapproving look which he knows he richly deserves.  Neither of them say anything for a few minutes.

“So what did your sister have to say?  Does she plan on coming back?”

“It is doubtful as long as you are still here.  Last night she came over to my house in an extremely bad mood and said you guys needed to take a permanent break from each other.  When she went to work this morning she said something about going to our mother’s house and that you were a lazy bum.”

“Yeah, I may be a lazy bum but she is totally delusional.  She is right about us needing to take a break.”

“You haven’t been very nice to her lately.  She asked me to grab some of her clothes.”

“Why does everything seem to be going wrong?  I guess I don’t deserve anything good since I don’t do anything good.”

“What happened to those dreams you had about going off to some tropical paradise to live?  Weren’t you going to sail across the water and open up a nightclub on some tropical island in the South Pacific?”

“Yeah, right, you know what they say happens with dreams, they are a lot like promises, here today and gone tomorrow.’’

“That’s too bad, your eyes used to light up whenever you talked about it.”

“Well that dream is gone and there is no point in thinking about it.”

“My sister misses the way you used to be, maybe it was only a dream, but at least it was a nice dream.”

The doorbell rings and Tom goes to answer it.  Tina walks over to the television set and picks up a picture that is sitting on top of it.  It is a photograph of Tom and Karen in better times and they were both smiling and have their arms around each other.  Tina stands there looking at the photo.

Tom returns to the room with an envelope in his hand.  “That was the postman.”

“Good news or bad news?”

“It’s a certified letter telling me that my grandfather has died.”

“That’s too bad, I’m really sorry.”

“It’s no big deal really, we were never very close and I haven’t seen him since my mother died eighteen years ago.  She sent me on a bus to stay with him the summer before she died of cancer and the last time I saw my grandfather was at her funeral, which wasn’t long after the summer I spent with him.  The three months I spent in the country with my grandfather was pretty cool.  It was the first trip I had ever taken by myself even though I was already a teenager. This letter says I have to go to the town he lived in to find out what he left me in his will.  I guess since I have nothing better to do I should go there, he probably didn’t leave me much but anything would be nice.  You can tell Karen I had to go out of town and won’t be here so she can stay at the apartment since she told you she doesn’t want to see me.”

“A change of scenery might do you some good and I’ll tell her that she can come and get her own things since your being here is supposed to be the reason she sent me.”

“It certainly won’t hurt anything for me to get away from here.  Thanks for being so understanding.  Could lend me a few bucks until I get back?”

She opens her purse and hesitantly hands him some money.  Tom takes the money and gives her a grateful look.

“If this turns out to bring me any money I promise I will get this back to you, I know you think I am a loser and I am fairly inclined to agree with you, maybe this is a sign that my luck is changing.”

“Well nobody hopes that more than I do, except maybe my sister, so I will keep my fingers crossed.  Have a good trip and I really do hope something good comes of this.”

Tom goes to the bedroom to pack for the trip he is about to embark on and Tina leaves with Karen’s things she has already gathered together.

The bus trip to the small town took about four hours longer than it would have taken by car but it finally arrived in the town Tom’s grandfather had lived in early in the afternoon.  Tom is hoping to find a change of fortune.  The bus makes only one trip a day from the northern part of the state to the southern end and stops at every city or town in between, referred to as the milk run.  Tom is the only person to get off the bus when it stops alongside a bench setting on the sidewalk in front of a small market located inside a converted office building. Even though it is the brightest part of the day the sky is darkening and dust is starting to swirl on the side of the road.  Tom’s backpack hanging over one shoulder and his jacket is draped over the other one.  The bus barely stops long enough for his feet to touch the ground before the driver put the bus in gear and takes off.  He stands and watches as the bus vanish into the horizon.

Tom’s hippie like appearance is pretty much in total contrast the rural setting he just arrived in.  A young farmer in coveralls, drives up on a tractor and stops in next to where Tom is standing.  His cheek bulges with chewing tobacco and he spits juice on the ground in front of Tom and then revs up the engine and drives on down the road.  Three old men wearing cowboy hats are sitting on a bench a few feet away and they are watching Tom with curiosity showing on their faces.  Tom figures that there probably isn’t much to do in this town so the arrival of someone new is somewhat of an event. The men continue to just sit and stare at him without saying a word to him or to each other.

Tom approached them.  “Can someone tell me where the county building is?”

No one responds for a couple minutes and then all three point at the same time to a nearby building.

Tom finds this amusing and chuckles.  “You guys sure make one hell of a greeting committee, thank you for your help.”

The men quietly stare and don’t make any movement other than to put their arms down after they point out the building Tom asked about.  As he walks to the building he has a strange feeling come over him that someone is watching him and as he glances around and notices an older woman staring at him.  She is leaning halfway out of a window in the building up ahead and it appears as if she is trying not to be seen watching him as she is partially hidden behind a curtain as if she is hiding.  An involuntary shudder ran up his spine as he makes eye contact with her as he passes by the window she is peering down at him from when she quickly pulls the curtains closed.  Tom hasn’t felt very welcome so far from anyone he has encountered since his departure from the bus.  The town he remembered from being there as a teenager was of a much larger place than the one he has seen so far.  It does appear that there have been more businesses in town in the recent past as there are a lot of empty buildings that look like they had been recently occupied.  The building in which the old woman is standing inside of looks as if it is vacant also, along with the one between it and the one he is headed to.  There is a sinister aura radiating from this woman, she is dressed in black as if she has just has returned from a funeral, and Tom feels an ominous sense of foreboding as he walks on past where she is hiding. Tom enters the building inside it is a large warehouse room with a small office inside.  While Tom stands inside the door looking around a man appears who looks to be in his early sixties from inside the office.

“What can I do for you Sir?”

“I think I should be the one calling you Sir.  You have spoken the most words I’ve heard from anyone in this town since I arrived.  I am Antonio Vargas’ grandson and I received a letter that I am to see someone here about his will.”

The building is rather empty with odd pieces of office furniture placed about it and several rows of file cabinets line one whole wall and many more loose files are stacked on shelves.  The man motions Tom to a conference table and walks over to one of the cabinets.  Tom sits at the table and watches as the man retrieves a folder and brings it to the table.  He opens it up and looks at Tom briefly and then looks at the papers in the folder.

“I, Antonio J. Vargas, residing in Phoenix, Oregon, being of sound mind and body do hereby declare this instrument to be my last will and testament.  I give all of my estate which consists of a bank account, a ranch with a house, a barn and one hundred acres of land, adherent with the enclosed conditions; to my grandson, Thomas L. Simonsen.”

The man then looks at Tom who looks quite surprised.  “There are some conditions listed in the will but what I read aloud is the major intent of what is written here, except to describe the property in more detail. I doubt you want to hear the ‘fine print’ so to speak, do you?”

“Only what you think it is necessary.  I surely never expected anything like this to happen!”

“Your grandfather made out this will about two months ago, so as far as I know these are his final wishes.”

“Oh, I am not complaining.”  Tom feels like he is in a dream, he whistles out loud and leans back in his chair.  “Why he left all this to me is a surprise since I haven’t heard from my grandfather for about eighteen years.  Not that either one of us has been trying to contact each other. I am mostly surprised anyone even found me which is usually a good thing since usually someone wants me to collect a bill but I certainly am glad I got ‘found’ this time!  Nothing like this has ever happened to me.”

“I can’t tell you why your grandfather has named you his heir but since he is gone it will be his secret forever.”  The man says this with while giving Tom what he perceives to be an odd look.

“I remember he had a very nice ranch when I stayed there many years ago.”

“It’s a beautiful ranch with some of the finest grazing lands in the entire valley which are presently being leased out, and to which you are entitled to receive the rent money from, should you decide to stay there.”

The man took a deep breath and continues reading, “There are two conditions established in the will.”

“Well go ahead and tell me what they are?”

“For the first part, you will not be able to sell any part of what he has willed you, this includes the house with the twenty acres that are known as the PARADISE RANCH or the adjoining property that is leased out, for the period starting from the date of this will and lasting twenty years.  At the end of that period the beneficiary of the will, which currently is you, will become the official owner and will be allowed to keep or sell any part of the ranch properties.”

Tom starts laughing. “So I guess it really isn’t mine for twenty years then, is that correct?”

“I am not sure what you mean but it is yours only you will be responsible Ignacio for twenty years.”

“So is Ignacio my grandfather’s dog, kind of a strange name for a dog though?”

Tom receives no answer and the man has his back turned to him to reach into the folder that he had inside his desk. He takes a key out of an envelope and hands it to Tom.  “There may be more keys at the ranch but this is the one your grandfather had put with his will.  I assume you can figure out how to use it all by yourself and for all I know the place may not even be locked.  You should find that out very soon. When you go out of the office door take a left and keep on the main road until you get to a wooden sign over the driveway that has PARADISE RANCH carved into it. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding it.”

“Thank you and it has been a pleasure doing business with you.”  Tom stretches out his hand to shake hands.  The man handed Tom a manila envelope.

“Here is information about the bank account that is set up so you can go to the bank and make arrangements to access the account when you are ready.”

Tom takes the envelope.  “Thanks for everything.  I can use some money to get a good meal and a stiff drink to celebrate my good fortune!”

“I guess the good part will be up to you but it is indeed a small fortune.”

The man responds the same monotone voice that he has had from the very first words they exchanged.

Tom walks out of the building and heads down the road in the direction he was told to go.  He is anxious to revisit the place he has so many vague and happy memories from so many years ago.  He remembers there is a large house, a barn and a pond but doesn’t remember much more than that, perhaps when he sees the place more memories will return.  He wonders if he should have asked how far down the road he would be going since he may have inherited a ranch but all he has to show for it is a house key and for now his car is the pair of shoes on his feet.

As he walks down the road he passes back by the small store the bus let him off in front of and he goes into in and buys a few things to take to the ranch since he hasn’t had anything to eat since before he got on the bus which that is starting to feel like a very long time ago and also a bit like it happened on a different planet.  He buys a few things he considers essential, which includes a couple of beers, he assumes there is nothing to eat or drink there.  The road he is walking on is asphalt which has been paved fairly recently but still had has more than a few potholes on it.  It turns into a gravel road fairly quickly and before too long and he is walking down a dirt road alongside a wood fence.  Then he sees a driveway with a sign hanging over it up ahead and he realizes that this is most likely his newly inherited property.  He also sees a large field with some cattle grazing on it surrounded by some very large beautiful oak trees lining the driveway.  The wind gusts are also getting much stronger and are starting to shake the branches of the huge trees.  When he reaches the driveway there is a small gate with a small faded sign hanging on it which reads Welcome and it is just before the large carved wooden sign that is hanging over the top of the gate.  Tom walks through the gate and sees the beautiful log cabin home amongst the trees.  As he gets near the house he can see the yard that surrounds the house seems to be well taken care.  He also notices the barn that he remembered behind the house and from inside the barn he can hear a dog barking at him.  He thinks this is a little strange considering his grandfather is dead and there doesn’t appear to be any one else nearby.  Maybe a neighbor has been taking care of his grandfather’s dog and has left it in the barn after finding out from the county clerk that he has arrived in town, maybe that is the case anyway, he was told that he has to take care of something called Ignacio.  After checking out the house will go out to the barn and see what is going on.  He is having some flashes of memories from when he stayed with his grandfather many years ago.  He can’t wait to see inside of the house now and see what memories this event may bring on.  To the right of the house there is a garden with a fairly tall fence around it and low rock partitions that have been artistically arranged to keep the rows of plants separate from each other yet leaving enough room between them to walk.  Behind the house there is a small hill which is barren of any plants or trees but is still quite attractive all covered in grass and clover.   The wind comes up again and swirls the smaller branches of the trees around in a circular motion, they are dancing wildly around as if a giant is sitting inside the trees shaking them.   Tom’s face lights up and he reaches into his pocket to retrieve the key he walks onto the front porch of the house and slips the key into the lock and opens the door.

Tom throws the door wide open and starts walking through the house.  He turns the light switches on even though it is still early enough for there to be plenty of light without turning the lights on.  Turning the lights on and having no one to tell him not to fills him with a feeling of power.  He spends quite a bit of time exploring the house and then he goes to the barn to locate the barking dog.

Tom walks out the door he had entered through to go out to the barn.  It is close to the house and he enters it through a small door next to large hanging doors he assumes are for driving vehicles into the barn.  The dog is inside the first stall and when he opens the door the dog almost knocks him down he was so excited to see him.  From looking at the almost full bowl of dog food and completely full bucket of water the dog has been recently taken care of even if he did greet Tom like he hadn’t had any attention for a week. Tom leaves the dog in the barn since he is going to walk back to the town and go to the bank to get some money hopefully he will find a bar to get something to eat and drink.  There are a few other creatures in the barn but he will check them out later.

He returns to the house and wipes the dust from his jeans and goes in to the living room and sits on the leather couch.  While sitting on the couch he looks around his new residence and he feels like he is in heaven.  “Man I just won the lottery!”

Tom wakes up still sitting on the couch where he had sat down, familiar pattern he thinks, after his visit to the barn and he apparently immediately fell sleep after he sat down.  He looks at his watch and he has only been asleep for an hour so he still had time to walk to town and to go to the bank.  He springs up from the couch and takes a quick look around and grabs the envelope with the bank information in it. The clouds have moved back in and the wind is blowing everything again.  He manages to light a cigarette with a bit of difficulty given the windy conditions and he takes a couple of puffs on it and then slowly starts to walk around the outside of the house admiring it on his way down the walkway to the road.  He is walking near where the road is when he notices someone standing outside the window in the living room, the one he had opened to let in the sunlight. It appears they are trying to get a glimpse inside the house.  Tom figures he is probably who the person peering in the window is trying to spy on.  Whoever is standing there can’t be much of a threat since they haven’t noticed the person they are trying to look at is outside the house watching them.  Tom can’t see the face of the stranger since he has his back turned to him.  Tom tries to walk quietly so he can sneak up on the man but he steps on something that makes a loud cracking sound.  Since there is no longer any chance he can sneak up on him he yells out instead.

“Hey, what do you think you are you doing?”

The startled intruder takes off running towards the small hill behind the house without ever looking back.  There is no point in running after the man since he has no hope of catching him and he watches as the figure disappears behind the hill.  He walks back to the front door and locks the door just in case the uninvited visitor decides to come back after he leaves.  He turns and walking towards town and it doesn’t occur to him to wonder why the dog isn’t barking.

As he walks back to town the weather continues to get more miserable. He notices when he arrives back in town that there aren’t any people out but he soon notices that the lady who had been dressed in black when he first arrived in town was watching him once again.  Tom feels like she disapproves of his presence by the way she stares at him.  Tom sees a crow fly overhead and this sent another involuntary shudder up his spine, the feeling that many people describe with “someone has just walked across your grave.”

Tom continues towards the end of the block and sees a sign over a doorway with the name of the town on it and the word “Bank” after the town’s name.  Tom walks up to the building and enters it. There is only one person inside and he motions Tom towards a chair next to a desk.

“I’ll be with you in a minute.”  The man says and gets up from his chair and disappears through a door and a few minutes later the man emerges from area he had gone behind and walks back to the desk and looks at Tom with a bit of curiosity.

“I took the liberty of setting up a checking account already with the name provided to me by Mr. Peters.  I have been waiting for you to show up ever since Antonio died and I was told that his heir, you of course, had been located.  Mr. Peters came over here after you were in his office today and told me to expect you this afternoon.”

“Boy, I have heard that secrets are hard to keep in a small town but I have only been here a few hours, does no one in this town have anything else to do?”

“Not really, I don’t see why you are surprised given that the population of this town is maybe two hundred people that live within fifteen miles of here.  Why don’t you think you wouldn’t be the talk of the town?”

“When you put it that way I guess you have a point, I haven’t ever been this big of a deal to anyone in my entire life.  I am not sure if it is a good thing or a bad thing.  So how much money do I have in my bank account?”

“As I said, I already have put it in your name and your grandfather had the account set up as a trust fund.  So every month there is a set amount of money automatically deposited into your account to ensure that the money he left for you will last for the time it was intended to last for.  You will receive four thousand dollars each month to spend as you wish unless you break the stipulations in the will regarding the inheritance.”  The banker then handed the checkbook, a debit card and an envelope to Tom and extended his hand to him.

“Is there anything more I can help you with today?  I imagine you would probably like some real money as long as you are here wouldn’t you.”

Tom is a little stunned by what he has just been told and he as he shakes the banker’s hand he mumbles a quick thank you and answers yes to wanting some cash.  He watches as the man goes into one of the teller’s windows and opens a cash register and then comes back and hands him some money.  Tom smiles and takes the money from the banker’s hand and walks out and heads down the street towards the sign proclaiming it is MURPHY’S TAVERN

Tom arrives at the tavern quickly since every place in this town is located close together.  He is still feeling dazed and it seems like he has been pushed from the bank to the tavern by the wind.  He enters the tavern and observes the patrons seem to be made up of mostly men who are scattered around the bar and seated at a few of the tables but the main interest is a noisy game of pool being played in the middle of the room.  Tom walks into the bar towards a table at the farthest corner opposite from the front door.  The whole place becomes quiet as everyone turns to check him out so he decides to walked directly to the tall bar that has a large selection of liquor bottles on the counter behind it and sits down next to where the bartender is standing.

Tom has the full attention of everyone in the place after he sits on a stool he looks around the room and addresses the patrons.

“Good afternoon.”

Nobody acknowledges his greeting which isn’t too surprising.  When the bartender asks him what he would like to drink Tom tries to strike up a friendly conversation with him.

“What’s with this crazy weather, the wind hasn’t stopped blowing all day, is it always that way in the afternoon?”

The bartender also seemed to be ignoring him and doesn’t answer.  Tom loses his patience and spoke out to no one in particular.  “Is everyone in town mute or just plain rude?”

Once again there is no response to his question, not that he really expects one.  The men continue playing pool but they are playing a bit more quietly after Tom’s statement.  Tom turns around from looking at the bar patrons he had addressed and he faces the bartender and lays a twenty dollar bill on the bar.

“Young man, how about pouring me a beer and give me a shot of whiskey to go along with it.  I need a pack of Marlboros as well, please?”

The bartender goes to the tap and pours a beer and grabs a shot glass along with a pack of cigarettes and placed all three items on the bar in front of Tom and walks away.  He then grabs a bottle of liquor from the counter is getting ready to pour some of it into the shot glass he had set on the bar in front of Tom.  Tom quickly snatches the bottle out of the bartender’s hands just before any liquid has started to flow out of the bottle.

“It will probably be a good idea if you just leave the bottle here with me because I have a feeling that this could be a long afternoon and I might need this bottle to keep me company.”  Tom laughs loudly.

The bartender gives him a startled look and then takes the money off the counter where Tom has set it and returns with the change.

“I didn’t answer your question about the weather earlier because I have been inside this place all day ever since I got here this morning so I don’t have any idea what the weather is like outside.  I wasn’t being rude I just didn’t have an answer for you.”

“That’s alright, I really didn’t care about the answer I was just trying to be friendly.  Thank you for giving me an answer, since no one else seems to be willing to talk to me around here.”  Tom pushes the change the bartender had put in front of him back towards him for a tip and then picks up the bottle, the shot glass, the pack of cigarettes, and he then winks at the bartender and makes a growling sound before heading to the table he originally was going to sit at.  It is a small distance away from where the rest of the customers are sitting, in front of the fake fireplace, but close enough that he can watch the men playing pool.

“Howl!”  He announces loudly to the room.

Tom notices that his howling seems to make the bartender nervous but he doesn’t say anything and keeps himself busy behind the counter.

Tom fills the shot glass with whiskey and quickly drinks it.  He spends the rest of the afternoon and well into the evening alone at his table drinking the rest of the bottle and watching the men play pool.  The ashtray in front of him becomes full of cigarette butts and the bottle of whiskey becomes empty and the hands on the clock keep advancing.  The men eventually stop playing pool and gather at a table in the middle of the room and start playing cards.  This continues on throughout the evening until there are only a few embers left glowing in the faux fireplace and most of the customers have gone home.  Tom notices that very few new customers have come in to replace the ones that had been there when he first arrived and had slowly dwindled away as he drank his whiskey.  Tom finally gets up from the table to leave after he has emptied the bottle of whiskey.  It is dark outside and besides being time to head back to the ranch he also has a pretty good buzz from all the alcohol he has drank on an empty stomach.  He proceeds to walk carefully to the door, he knows he is staggering and can feel the eyes of the men in the bar watching his actions.  They have said nothing to him all afternoon and continue to ignore him as he walks by on his way to the door.  He is almost to the door when a colorfully dressed young man brashly walks in.  He appears to be drunk and Tom has a bad feeling as he observes the man’s swaggering gait upon entry.  He looks to be around twenty five and is wearing a very gaudy outfit of an alligator skin jacket and ostrich hide cowboy boots with gold tips.  He has a large gold cap on one of his front teeth and when he smiles it looks more like a snarl than a smile. The remaining men in the bar are playing pool and Tom observes their responses seem more perfunctory than sincere.  Tom isn’t sure how he should react to this dandy who has made a grand entrance but in his inebriated condition he hopes he will not have to react at all and that he can just walk out of the bar while the bartender is busy pouring him a drink out of a bottle of liquor that he had retrieved from under the counter.

The man looks at Tom with disdain. “Well look what we have in here now, a new bum in town.”

Tom tries to take a menacing step towards him but isn’t stable enough to any steps without staggering.

“What in the hell is your problem?  You are the only guy in this place that can talk and you are an asshole, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.”

The men stop playing pool and tension fills the air. “Randy, you should be more selective about who you let drink in here.”

Tom moves closer.  “From where I stand the only loser in here I see is you.”

There is a silence as the men standing around the pool table watch the confrontation unfold between Tom and the new bar patron.

“You should watch what you say jack-ass.  You don’t know who you are talking to.”

“I know exactly who I am talking to asshole!” Tom replies and stumbles towards the door.

“I have some advice for you; you need to get out of this bar and leave town, because if I see you around here again you will regret it.”

Tom stares at the man and glances at the bartender, then at the group of men, “Growl, Howl!”  He laughs and stumbles out the door.

The cocky young man is infuriated and turns to the men watching him.  “I had better not see any of you hanging out with that guy or you will be sorry!”

The men try to avoid making eye contact with him and notice Tom has returned to the bar and is standing in the doorway.  The men try not to look at Tom as he waits for the man to notice him standing behind him.

“Possibly you are the one who should watch what they say since you don’t know who you are talking to.”  Tom says softly.

“You had better leave this bar right now because you are not wanted in here!”

Tom stares at him, turns around and makes a final exit from the bar.

The wind is much calmer than when Tom first walked back to town. The daylight is replaced by the light from the full moon.  Tom tries to navigate the bumpy country road and slowly staggers his drunken way back to the ranch.  The trip is accentuated by a great many brief encounters with the ground.  Tom arrives at the gate leading to the front door and as he approaches it he hears a strange sound coming from behind the house.  He walks around back and can vaguely make out a shadowy figure on the hill in the dark.  He hears strange throaty sounds that seem to be coming from that silhouette that appears to be a man and as he starts to approach the shadow and suddenly he is being yelled at and he feels objects being thrown at him.

“Get away from here.  Leave!”  These words come from the moonlit apparition.

Tom is too drunk to deal with a “ghost throwing rock” though he doesn’t actually know if the “ghost” really is throwing anything but he sure feels like he is getting hit by something.  He becomes frightened and feels like he is in a dream and he loses the ability to behave rationally and runs to the front door and after a great deal of difficulty manages to get the key for the door out of his pocket and unlocks the door and quickly slips inside the house.  Once inside he struggles to get the door locked again and leans against the front door breathing way harder than he should be and he can hear the sound of someone approaching the house.  He yells out to the figure he imagines is standing outside the door. “Leave me alone, you lunatic.”

He goes into the pantry and rummages around until he finds a weapon, in this case it is a “deadly” baseball bat.  He calms down a bit but continues to stumble about and eventually manages to work his way up the stairs to his grandfather’s bedroom.  He enters it without turning on the light and immediately goes to the window and opens the curtains. He looks behind the house but the silhouette is gone and there aren’t any sounds coming from outside any more.  All he can see is the full moon providing a backdrop for the dark hill. He goes over to the bed and takes off his shirt and jeans and sits on the bed in his underwear.  He kept the bat close just in case the stranger came back.  As soon as he lay down on his back he felt the room start spinning and he makes a mad dash for the window and hurriedly throws open. The liquor he has been drinking all day makes its exit from his body in a violent upheaval and fortunately Tom gets his head out of the window in time. He returns to the bed, slips under the covers and quickly loses consciousness.

The morning sun shines brightly through the open window and Tom slowly waking up with a greatly deserved hangover.  Suddenly he hears a noise and he springs up and grabs the bat he had left next to the bed.  “Who the hell is here? I can hear you in the hall so show yourself.”

As commanded a figure appears in the doorway, it is a boy whom Tom is sure he hasn’t ever seen before though for some reason he seems familiar.  It is a teenager who has the features Tom has seen in photos of children with Down syndrome, though he has never met any of them.  He is standing quietly staring Tom when Tom makes a threatening gesture with the bat and the boy takes a couple of steps backwards.

Tom stands up next to the bed holding the bat and only wearing underwear.

“Who are you?  Answer me and how did you get in here anyway?”

The boy glances towards the open window and Tom remembers his quick run to the window and doesn’t remember shutting it.  He realizes he is wearing only his underwear and that he must look a little silly threatening the boy with a baseball bat.  He sits down on the bed and puts the bat down. He reaches over the side of the bed in search of his clothes but can’t find them.  All of his clothes as well as his backpack are missing.  “Where in the hell are my clothes?”

The boy angrily yells at him. “Get away from here, this house is not your house.  Leave!”

The boy turns and runs down the stairs.  Tom runs after the boy and watches as he runs out the door.  By the time Tom gets there he can see no sign of him.  He starts to go out to outside but realizes there is no way he is going to catch him.  He probably couldn’t catch him even if he had been wearing clothes.   He hears a noise out by the barn and spots the boy running past it and up the hill behind the house.  Tom feels foolish and notices his clothes and backpack are scattered on the other side of the fence.

“You little jerk; you could have just hit me with the bat while I slept!”

He then gets hit with a heavy dose of nausea and feels a strong urge to go lie down so he can stop the spinning inside his head.  He doesn’t wish to experience what had happened last night so he gathers his things together from out in the yard and heads back to bed.  He will deal with the boy later, much later with the way he is feeling.

Tom awakes after having recovered from being startled awake by the visitor he had in his bedroom earlier and leaves the house in search of the boy.  He walks past the hill the boy ran behind when he had made the minimal effort to try to catch him earlier.  Tom continues to go further away from the house until he comes to a pond somewhat hidden beyond the crest of the hill behind the house.  He finds the boy sitting on top of a large rock above the water. When Tom approaches the boy starts nervously looking around for a way to escape.  He is trapped on the rock unless he comes down the trail he walked up but at the base of that trail is where Tom is standing.  Tom can see the boy is contemplating how to escape and he is afraid the boy might jump to avoid having to walk down the trail.  Tom waves his hands to get the boy’s attention to stop him from jumping. “Get away from there!  You’re going to hurt yourself!”

The boy moves to the edge of the rock and yells at Tom.  “Leave!  This is not your place.”

“You are mistaken about that, I am the new owner, my grandfather owned this place.  Do you know Antonio?”

The boy stares at him attentively and he no longer looks as fearful as he did earlier.  Suddenly it dawns upon Tom he saw a blackboard in his grandfather’s study that had Nacho written on it.

“Are you, is your name Ignacio?”

The boy keeps staring at the water below.  Tom has been pretty stupid not to have figured out who the boy was from the first time he saw someone looking into the house. “Damn it!”  He picks up a rock and throws it across the water.  “I’m sorry I should have known who you were and I shouldn’t have yelled at you, come down from there and talk to me please?”

The boy appears calmer and speaks slowly.  “You, you are Tom?”

Tom nods and for the boy smiles. “Uncle Tony said you would come here and help me take care of the ranch and then he went away.  He’s not coming back is he?”

“I was told that you are right that the man you call Uncle Tony, who was also my grandfather, is not coming back.  That’s why he sent me a letter asking me to come here.”

The boy is still standing up above him on the rock and looks at the end of the pathway where Tom is standing.  Tom walks to the edge of the pond and looks out at the water.  He watches Ignacio from the corner of his eye but the boy is still not moving.  “Ignacio, get down off of that rock up there and walk back down the trail.  You are making me nervous up there.”

Ignacio obeys him and stepped back a few feet and then jumped onto to the ground below the rock and starts down the trail.  After Ignacio has walked all the way down the trail Tom makes a suggestion. “What would you say to us going back to the house and having some lunch and start getting to know each other?”

“I am hungry since I haven’t eaten any food except for when you left for a long time yesterday and didn’t come back until it was very late.  I was going to eat breakfast this morning but when I went in to talk to you in Uncle Tony’s bed I thought you were going to hit me with that stick so I left and didn’t get to eat.”

“Sorry about that.  I didn’t realize who you were and I acted very stupid.  I apologize for yelling at you and threatening you.  Will you forgive me?”

Ignacio watches him warily.  “Okay.” He walks towards the house and Tom walks alongside him.

“Tom, Uncle Tony called me Nacho and not Ignacio.  Can you call me Nacho like Uncle Tony did?”

“Of course I will.”

Threatening the boy with baseball bat was not one of his finer moments but he can’t take it back but can only move past them hopefully.

“I have to go let Paco out of the barn before I come in the house.”

Tom starts to ask who Paco is but goes on into the kitchen. A few minutes later Nacho enters the house with the dog from the barn on his heels and walks past where Tom is sitting at the table and he sits in the chair nearest the wall. Tom sees the wood burning stove and remembers it from when he spent the summer with his grandfather.  He had found it a little intriguing though he remembered that he never was able to master cooking on it.  Tom looks at Nacho who is intently watching him as he stares at the stove.

“Do you want me to put some wood in the stove so we can cook some breakfast?”  Nacho cheerfully asks.

“Sure that would be great, the last time I used this stove was probably before you were born and I didn’t do very well so I can definitely use your help.”

After having woken with a ferocious hangover after having spent the previous evening drinking, as well as not eating his head and stomach were now telling him how bad an idea that had been.  He went to the refrigerator and took out some of the items he had purchased the day before on his first visit to the ranch.  He looks through the cupboard and manages to find a frying pan which he put on the stove next to where he had placed the food.  Tom had noticed there was already some food in there yesterday when he put the things he had bought at the store in it but he assumed they were left over from when his grandfather was alive so he didn’t check the food out very closely.  Now that he knows Nacho has been living there it was quite likely the food is good.

“So how hungry are you Nacho?”

“A little.”  He started to rub his belly.  “Well, maybe a lot.”

Tom starts to work on the task of cooking for him and his housemate.  He puts the skillet on a burner and pours in some oil.  He starts cracking eggs into a bowl, but the eggs are a lot harder to break open than he remembers them being the last time he did so and ends up with a lot of egg shells in the bowl.  He usually has problems when he cooks and he continues to screw up the egg mixture he poured into the skillet starts to explode and throws hot bits of raw egg from the pan that land on his hands and burns his skin.  He curses and pulls the pan off the burner and throws his hands up in a gesture of surrender to the eggs.  He steps back and surveys the unfolding disaster on the stove trying to decide if it’s worth trying to salvage the rest of the eggs. The mixture that remained have actually started cooking while he had contemplated what to do next and were beginning to burn so he grabs a plate out of the cupboard and scrapes the eggs onto it and sets the plate in front of Nacho who has been quietly sitting at the table watching his performance.  Tom grabs a fork out of a drawer and hands it to Nacho who just stares at the plate of eggs that Tom placed in front of him.

“Would you like a glass of milk?”

“You’re a pretty weak cook, huh?”  Nacho innocently says.

Calling his cooking weak is a polite understatement. Tom pretends to be angry and snatches the plate from in front of the boy.

“Well then I guess I will take this plate of eggs and you can make your own and we’ll see how much better you do, smarty pants!  I am sure the dog will be happy to eat the eggs I made for you.”  Tom turns away from Nacho and takes the plate over to where the old dog is lying on the floor and when Tom set the plate down on the floor his tail starts thumping in anticipation of the treat that Tom has just set down.  A few egg shells won’t spoil the eggs for Paco.

Nacho gets up and grabs the frying pan, wipes it out with a paper towel and neatly cracks an egg into it and does the same with three more.  Nacho does a successful job of cooking them and scoops them onto a plate. “Want me to make some more for you?”

“I’m not hungry anymore.” His hangover is in full force and he doesn’t feel like being a good sport.

Nacho voraciously eats the eggs he has cooked.

Later in the day Tom is sitting on the front porch in a big rustic wood rocking chair, which he discovers is quite comfortable, and he watches as the sun begins to disappear behind the row of trees that line the outer border of the wood fence.  The weather is amazingly warm down in the southern part of the state Tom has noticed, there would have been no way he would been this comfortable sitting outside where he came from just a couple of days ago, he is currently admiring this little slice of paradise.

Nacho is sitting on a big decorative rock a few feet away underneath one of the many enormous oak trees.

“What are you doing buddy?”

“I’m looking at the sun in the trees, it looks really pretty.”

“Yes it certainly is pretty, what you are thinking about?”

“I am just looking at the grass and the trees with the birds in the sun.  Uncle Tony and I used to sit out here together a lot.”

“I see, those are some pretty bitchin’ birds all right and it is a very nice view!”

“You talk dirty.”

“What do you mean?”  Tom said defensively.

“You swear a lot.”

“Yes, I probably do, especially when compared to you.  Who died and made you the head of the grammar police?  I didn’t see the rules posted in the house anywhere Señor Cervantes.”

Nacho looks at Tom and is clearly confused. “Who is Cervantes?”

“He was some guy who wrote a book called ‘Don Quixote’, it is about some crazy fool who ran around fighting windmills as I recall.  Have you heard of him?”

“Well, I don’t know him since I have never been out of townI don’t know about the windmills.  Why was he fighting with them?  Are windmills bad people?”

Tom realizes that it he is being too sarcastic.  “No, forget about what I said.  I was just being a bit ornery for no good reason.”

“Do they live in town?”

“I said to forget about it, I was stupid to say what I did.  I was just being a jerk because you were right about my using bad words and I will try to do better.”

“I don’t know how to use bad words because Uncle Tony said that it wasn’t polite to say them.  The only place I go to is to the church on Sunday.  Uncle Tony told me that there are some mean people in town and those people might use bad words.”

“My grandfather was right that there are some mean people in this town, just like in the other towns.  They don’t always use bad words but they sometimes do bad things when you don’t expect it which might be worse.”

“I don’t understand you are saying.  What bad things are they going to do?”

“Nothing, I shouldn’t have said that.  Let’s change the subject, whatever you are cooking for dinner sure does smell good, what is it?”

“I am making soup the way Uncle Tony taught me to.”

“If your soup tastes as good as it smells it is going to be delicious.”

The beautiful evening ends with both of them sitting under the oak tree enjoying the beautiful golden sunset.  “How about we go to bed right now? I drank a little too much alcohol last night, there was some strange creature creeping around here last night that kept me from getting enough sleep.”

“I am sorry I threw those rocks at you but I was afraid that someone was trying to steal this place since I was all alone here, I won’t ever do anything bad to you ever again.”

“It’s alright Nacho, I am just teasing you.  I know you were just scared.  I am not mad and you don’t need to apologize since it was my fault more than yours.  Tomorrow we start out as friends and you can show and tell me about everything on the ranch.”

“We are going to be very busy.”

“How long have you been living here on this ranch with my grandfather?”

“I don’t know, I only remember always living here.  I really miss him.  I loved him very much and he said he loved me.”

“It sounds like you had a good life here with him.   I hope you will as happy here with me as you were with him. Good night Nacho.”

“Good night Tom.”

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